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by Vault Education Editors | February 22, 2010


In line with its mission "help consumers make informed financial decisions," this morning published an article called "The five best fields for paid internships." Their top five are:

  1. Finance
  2. Government
  3. Communications and social media
  4. Accounting
  5. IT

Not surprisingly, these are also the five industries in which the majority of internship programs are very organized and structured. The Big Four accounting firms, for example, have very thorough, intensive and lucrative programs that they've spent many years developing. Finance is another sector with long-standing, formal internship programs. Vault's own Yazad Dalal talks about finance internships in the piece:

Despite the financial meltdown in 2008, internships with banks are booming, says Yazad Dalal, executive vice president of, a career counseling Web site[sic] with a database of more than 800 internships.

"Even now, the internships that tend to pay the most are in the financial sector," Dalal says. "We're listing more than 50 (paid) internships in that category and we're seeing more coming in."

But what if you want to pursue a career in an industry that is not dominated by systematized internship programs, such as public relations or nonprofit? Many unpaid, informal internships offer the great learning and networking opportunities that will launch your career. That said, in this economy, it can be hard to afford a summer without pay. Luckily, even if the internship employer can't offer a standard salary, there are ways to get the compensation you need.

  • Talk to the company's HR department. They may be able to scrounge up some money for a stipend or other helpful perks, such as housing or travel reimbursement or tuition aid.
  • Visit your campus career center. In a recent Vault survey, almost half of the colleges we asked say they offer some sort of financial support for students to take unpaid or low-paid internships. This support can be in the form of financial aid, scholarships, grants, fellowships or tuition reimbursement.

Whatever industry you want to work in, an internship is a strong addition to your resume. When starting your career and, perhaps, choosing between a paid vs. unpaid internship, always start by considering the experience you would gain in each. If an internship is paid but all you would do is fetch coffee and make copies all day, it won't help your career as much as an unpaid internship where you attended to industry lectures, worked on real projects and received mentoring from a senior exec. A career is a marathon, not a sprint--an unpaid internship may mean a bigger payoff down the road.


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